IMAGES Hammersmith Palais, London
THE metamorphosis is complete. From the insipid childishness of the little-girl-lost routine to the charms of the new pseudo-sophisticate, Clare Grogan has teased and deceived us all. But does this complete and rigorous change of image convince us that behind the sugary charm of the girl herself lies any tangible substance or less than transient talent?
I saw Altered Images ages ago, supporting U2 at this venue. I saw a vibrant, vigorous and cocquettishly teasing Clare Grogan and a band that had a party-like charm. Clare skipped, hopped and tantalised on the edge of the stage, the new pop dream personified. She was the sugar-candy baby in ribbons and bows as she giggled and simpered her way through countless interviews. And we played along with the game, we patronised and excused, our sycophancy eventually shattering the china doll and its permanent grin, and out of the broken fragments of the doll stepped a new persona, the glacially cool Clare Grogan Mark 2.
The Mark 2 model could not be more different. Restrained, collected, and almost aloof, this time round sees Clare yelling for acceptance on her own terms. But in discarding the peripheral flippancies of the previous incarnation, Altered Images have also lost that elusive spark that singled them out as exciting, as something different.
On stage in her long black couture dress and diamante, Clare now looks like a lost madonna or a figure in a Greek tragedy. Despite the high heels and the chignon hairstyle, she still looks like a kid of seven who's raided her mother's wardrobe. She looks tragically alone up there, even with the lads bouncing beside her. There's no cohesion, no feeling of a group, unlike the original band who would lark about and grin at Clare's inane antics. Not once does she look left or right; the perforrnance is mechanically formulated and delivered, and any atmosphere, conviction, or pathos that Clare could once muster has long since dissipated.
The audience could be to blame for the lack of atmosphere. The last time I saw the band, almost the entire audience was less than a decade old and that juvenile elation at their gigs generated a special anticipatory excitement. Tonight the crowd are average in every way and I can't see many under 15. Perhaps this age factor is important, perhaps I'm just rationalising; trying to understand why Altered Images have degenerated from a superb pop combo (however much we vilified Clare's paedophilic charms, she was original) to a dull, flat and monotonously boring band with not even Clare's cuteness to supply diversion.
As a chanteuse Clare will never be more than a novelty item, the strangled squeaking of her vocal cords which tied in perfectly with the flippant persona of her "Happy Birthday" days is now an embarrassment to the cool jet set Grogan.
"Don't Talk To Me About Love" was the only song that carried any impact in the set - hell, it's the only decent song they've written recently. Altered Images just don't work any more. Sad, isn't it?